Sunday, April 29, 2007

PBwiki Bonus

I've been playing with wikis for a while and think they are a fantastic tool for creating websites without having to know HTML. Add in their collaborative properties and you have a tool that is fantastic for knowledge sharing and peer produced content, all of which were topics covered at the recent Jimmy Wales seminar here in Adelaide. They can be usefully used on an IWB, and I've been using one for my class planning during this year in preference to embedding everything on a flipchart. I've been using PBwiki which I chose as they had recently changed their interface to a friendlier user interface, getting rid of the need to know wiki markup language. It has been very useful as I embed all of the URL's for online resources in one spot and it's easy to track everything down. I can share the content with anyone and I can see this growing as an organic digital record of 2007.
PBwiki are also offering a bonus for anyone blogging about their product so my post can be construed to be somewhat self motivated, but seriously, their wiki is attractive, easy to use and is ad-free for educators. What more could you want?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dave Miller - IWB For Classroom Teachers

Pressed against tight time constraints I managed to get myself to Flinders University on time to hear Dave Miller, UK interactive whiteboard expert from the UK, and then to present a workshop to interested teachers using the ACTIVboard. It happened to be the board he was using in the Sturt Theatre and he started with a "wow factor" show of Google maps overlaid on each other, and he then used the erase tool to reveal the satellite image under the map version.

He first started working with IWBs since 2000. These are my notes from his presentation with my observations in italics.

Use time wisely when designing resources - not uncommon for teachers to spend a lot of time (excessively) designing tools that are low level. He showed a rabbit and a dove coming out of a hat and highlighted the time and effort used to create a one or two answer flipchart.

He talked about the use of colour to draw attention and how placement of stuff on the board can impact on the viewer.

He showed some popular sites for resources - Woodlands Junior School, BBC - and he incidentally kept showing some of the tools like the camera as he worked through some other resources. Interestingly, he kept using the acronym IAW, as opposed to the common Aussie acronym IWB. Wes Fryer tends to use EWB as his preferred acronym and it's important to be aware of all of them especially when tracking resources.

Talked about three stages - supported didactic, then interactive, then enhanced interactive. Involves a change of thinking. That compares in a similar way to the Marc Prensky model that I have utilised with our staff.

Says in his teaching he uses the board for everything - bit doesn't ignore the hands on, group work aspect of the classroom. Suggest that resource links are embedded in the flipcharts - teacher guides to interactive teaching in the UK. Demonstrated the use of other Software programs (ie. Word) as well as part of the board use.

Demonstrated the use of varied objects for sorting and classifying - objects are hidden or revealed according to their properties or whether they will or won't go into a box. Sound files can be used to construct learning - three phrases and optional conjunctions to join them together.

Maybe this is what the audience wanted but a lot of time was spent on "the board can do this " which can be frustrating for someone already familar with the IWB interface - but as Paul Luke from Craigburn pointed out to me after my workshop, you can always pick up some new ideas for use in your own classroom and it's important to know where the majority of teachers are with this stuff. The UK is a logical place to look as their interactive whiteboard usage predates Australia where general use of this technology is still fairly recent.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Promethean Tips and Strategies

Via Ollie Bray, this fantastic blog Promethean in 30 seconds that shows all those little how-to aspects of the ACTIVstudio software. Good work!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Flipchart Assessment Day.

"I'm so over flipcharts!" was the comment made to me the other day in the staffroom. One of our IWB teachers was expressing her frustration (maybe exasperation is a better word) at working towards addressing the criteria for flipchart assessment, as part of our beginning steps of the accreditation process towards the status of being a Promethean Centre of Excellence.

The assessment process took place today with our Melbourne-based trainer, Kate. We had eight practitioners taking place - most of our original "pioneer" group and a couple of our new board users looking to see how their skills were coming along. I have to admit that I was feeling a bit under pressure - the so-called technology savvy coordinator might be the only one whose flipchart skills weren't up to scratch!

Now the way I see it, the first comment might have something in it because when you look at what is required to reach certain levels in the Centre For Excellence criteria, it is mainly about using the ACTIVstudio tools and demonstrating a certain level of expertise. It certainly doesn't measure the pedagogical changes in a teacher - it reminds me a little bit of the debate between high stakes testing advocates and educators who are interested in the more holistic view of education. In the Centre For Excellence criteria, it is all definitely measureable - six flipcharts, using page notes somewhere, show a snap to grid, layered object examples and so on. But demonstrating how that flipchart has improved your students' learning outcomes - well, that's a different kettle of fish.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Do You Think This Is Fair?

Criteria for staff using IWB's at our school.

In moving forward, we need IWB users who are committed to the following:
• Attending all training opportunities offered by Commander and regular attendance at sessions offered by the Coordinator
• Be committed to moving their practice towards a learner centred approach that embeds the use of the IWB into students' learning. This includes building in opportunities for the students to regularly use the IWB for a wide range of purposes.
• Move their expertise and methodologies through Prensky's four stages of Technology Implementation, striving for "New Things In New Ways"
• Match the use of the IWB to other ICT implementation so that is used as a tool for explicit instruction (this is how, step by step) then as a tool to design, then as one of several tools to create and learn, then finally as a tool for presentation
• Use the IWB for "just-in-time" learning including the use of the internet to answer questions, model information literacy, and as fuel for discussion.
• Take part in professional sharing opportunities to showcase resources and good practices.

Does that sound fair enough?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Copyright, Fair Use And Flipcharts

Attribution:Image: 'Copyright-Free Finger'

A few of our teachers have been going back through their accumulated flipcharts and tidying them in preparation for our Promethean Centre of Excellence assessment. Now one of the goals of this assessment is to contribute to a repository of resources for other ACTIVboard users either by uploading their flipcharts to the Resource Section of the Promethean Planet website or providing links from our our School website. So, as I perused what is going up for assessment and discussed the finer details of the technical requirements (just what is snap-to-grid and why is it useful?), I wondered about the legal standing of images and other secondary content embedded into these files. Honestly, I actually think that most teachers don't even worry about copyright and intellectual property issues when they grab an useful pic, diagram or scan in a page from a much used textbook. And if they try to do the right thing, is their bibliographic style citations going to cut it?
Most of the time, what teachers and students do in terms of re-using other people's intellectual property is covered by the somewhat hard-to-pin-down concept of "fair use". That's fine within the four walls of the classroom - every time a child cuts out a celebrity pic for an art lesson, every time a newspaper article is cut to support a current events report, when a healthy food diagram is created using images printed from the web - "fair use" is presumed to be in play. This use of other people's photos, diagrams, logos, sounds, music and ideas in the pursuit of constructing learning within the school environment is fine because it doesn't get released out to the wider world.
But, as Will Richardson once said, "The web changes everything." As soon as schools access the world wide audience available via the internet, then the "fair use" idea is out the window. So, if we are going to contribute to potentially useful resources that are available to anyone who wishes to download them - then we'd better make sure that our use of other people's material is ethical. Treating the internet as a free digital material shopping mall is ignoring the rules that govern, (and while we might not agree with all of their intent) is a poor example for our students. We also know that ignorance is no defence for breaching other people's rights.
Two really good starting points for teachers to get a really good grasp are these articles by Sydney lawyer, Gibson Owen dealing with the issues of intellectual property,as well as copyright and fair use . These were first published in The Education Technology Guide, and I've posted reviews reflecting on their main points here and here. So, basically, if an image or resource doesn't specify its licensing conditions then copyright must be assumed. That means asking for permission from the copyright owner. How often do teachers even really do that? Often, permission might only be an e-mail away and an excellent practice for kids to get involved in.
So, unless you get permission then it might be wise to look for alternatives to content that is copyrighted. In my understanding, unless someone specifies otherwise, all material has to be assumed to be under copyright. What else can someone license their creations under?
The two options are Creative Commons and Public Domain. There are plenty of experts with more knowledge than me but in general, Public Domain means open slather - grab it, use it, no attribution, no permission needed, hack it up, distort it, combine it, mash it up - no strings attached. Great to use bu can be hard to find because understandably, when someone creates something ( a photo, music, diagram etc) they at least want recognition of ownership even if they don't want to be dishing out permission all the time or charging people for its use. So that's where Creative Commons can fill the gap. This is where a creator can choose a CC license that relaxes some of the copyright restrictions that require explicit permission. You can find plenty high quality CC material all over the web but there are variations between CC licenses that the owners can invoke and expect you, the user, to honour. One of the biggest repositories of CC photographs for instance can be found on Flickr, the popular photo sharing website. The problem being of course, that in our South Australian schools, Flickr is blocked by our filters. But for teachers planning and creating flipcharts at home, this is a great place to source material that quite often only requires a citation. Some CC licenses willingly let you re-use material and edit it for your own purposes.
So, when scouring the web looking for material to put on your flipcharts, remember "fair use". But if you intend to publish or upload your flipcharts to those web based arenas, read the fine print and look for the licenses before copy and pasting.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Keeping Things Moving


As a favour to our ACTIVboard suppliers, I recently presented to a school that was sinking a very sizeable slab of money into an IWB rollout. They were using federal grant money which required such a bulk purchase but I thought to myself at the time that I would not like to be the person in charge of that programs' success. Without identifying the school at all, they wanted their choice of Interactive Whiteboard into every classroom in their school (around 20) ready for the start of the 2007 school year. My job on that occasion was to tell them about why my school had chosen the Promethean product and walk them through the various software features so that they could make an informed opinion. But whether they followed our lead, or plumped for SmartBoards or even chose the third option, TeamBoard, the big issue for any IWB investing school is how do you keep all of your teachers moving forward and continually improving their practice?

Our school's process was to break the implementation into several stages over an attended period of time. We started with our first group of teachers, hand picked for their enthusiasm and ICT confidence who were referred to as our "pioneers". As I was one of that group and no more expert than anyone else, it was important that these teachers have some trouble shooting ability. If they couldn't solve a problem, they had enough nous to identify what was going on and ask for technical help. They've all been steadily working through Marc Prensky's four stages of technology implementation and trying to ensure that their pedagogy doesn't get mired in "old things in old ways". And they've known that when the next wave came on board they would have a role as mentors and buddies.

How do you manage that when you have 20 or so teachers all at the same starting point, all demanding that they need help troubleshooting or working out how to get a certain tool to function in the way they want? It would be very difficult and invariably someone will get left behind or maybe just not bother changing their practice at all. How do you keep the front runners satisfied and challenged and receiving recognition for pushing the limits of their pedagogy?

Only one part of having an Interactive Whiteboard in your classroom is technical expertise. That's important but after a certain period of time, that learning curve starts to flatten out and the use of the tools can become second nature. However, I'm always finding out new capabilities (quite often, pointed out to me by my students) but the major part of IWB technology is how it affects your practice without giving into the temptation to become an "instructivist" teacher. I've explored this idea before on Teaching Generation Z, but what I really want to focus on here is the idea of continually moving forward and if used with this idea of never standing still in mind, then we can utilise this quite expensive technology well. Training needs to come just in time and the teacher has to be continually looking for ways to improve their classroom practice. Which should be happening with or without an IWB anyway, right?
I'm totally convinced that rolling out our ACTIVboards in phases has been the right approach to ensuring they don't become an expensive sideline tool in the classroom. Providing the teacher with a laptop is another thing our school has got right. You can't expect a teacher to become proficient in a tool by only providing occasional access and expecting them to bring their IWB resources back and forth between home and school on a USB thumbdrive. I'm not saying that all of our users are where they should be yet but in the incremental approach, there is better chance of helping them along than if the whole school started at once.